EDITORIAL

The Second Life clock keeps ticking down on what will happen next …

Seconds to Go

“G et a life!” How often have you heard that before? Usually, it is meant as a taunt, implying that you don’t have anything better to do with your life. In truth, if you’re not continuously advancing yourself, how can you expect to become a better human? Moreover, if you’re reading this publication, shouldn’t that be one of your principal goals? So if enhancement is your objective, the best rejoinder to “get a life” might be, “I’m already working on a new and more elaborate one … a ‘second life.’”

All of us enhancers and extenders are in sync with the value of more health, more wisdom, more pleasure, more wealth … and more of all that is good. But how far does our vision extend? “It seems plausible,” according to science fiction author Vernor Vinge, “… that with technology we can, in the fairly near future, create or become creatures who surpass humans in every intellectual and creative dimension. Events beyond such a singular event are as unimaginable to us as opera is to a flatworm.”1 Vinge was the first to call it “the singularity.”

In 1993 Vinge predicted, “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence,” adding somewhat ominously that “shortly after, the human era will be ended.” Rather, it will just take a higher road.

As online games have attracted academic and popular interest (and some have millions of players), MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) have been ported to another genre where the pure game aspects have been largely removed. These are dubbed “virtual worlds” and the leader of these is Second Life.2 Launched in June of 2003 and now with one million regular users, Second Life casts the visual realism of an endless array of MMORPGs, yet exists principally as a venue for its participants, unlike the pre-designed adventure predecessors. Second Life comes armed with an ever growing range of software tools, including a common programming language that gives participants the ability and power to design their own artifacts. Thus its participants generate content, which is dependent on their individual and cooperative creative and developed skills. And what content!

Singularity promoter Ray Kurzweil recently said, “The ability of the digital world to emulate the real world is advancing and getting more and more subtle. Virtual reality today is cartoon-like, but if you look at Second Life, over the last 18 months, it’s become much more realistic. You can see where it’s headed to being very realistic and three-dimensional and full-immersion. That is the goal of the digital world: to emulate the natural world.”3 And also to advance, enhance, and even extend life, so it would seem.

And we’ll get it whether we want it or not; even if we aren’t ready. According to Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life, “As we increasingly advance materials technology, the real world will come more to resemble the virtual world.”4 Intriguingly, virtual worlds are where the internet was back in the mid-90s. Now as then, no one knows where it will go. But if you are working on your second life now, you’ll surely find a great advantage when the real and virtual worlds merge.

References

  1. Godwin M. “Superhuman Imagination: Vernor Vinge on science fiction, the Singularity, and the state.” Reason May 2007.
  2. http://secondlife.com/
  3. http://www.kurzweilai.net/an-interview-with-ray-kurzweil-inventor-bestselling-author-worldfuture-2010-speaker
  4. http://www.phaidon.co.uk/agenda/architecture/articles/2010/december/08/the-real-will-come-to-resemble-the-virtual-philip-rosedale-talks-to-phaidon-com/

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